Bridge-Climbing Tourist Will Face Jail Time, Because Terrorism


Did Lonely Planet add “top of the Brooklyn Bridge” to its list of New York City attractions?

Someone should look into that. Because for the third time in less than a year, a tourist has managed to climb, undetected, to the top of the hipster highway.

It happened around lunchtime on Sunday when Yonathan Souid, a French national, was caught way up at the top of the span taking photos of the Manhattan skyline. Well, that’s his story, anyway. (Ahem, sleeper cell.)

OK, it’s pretty much the police’s story too. But the Brooklyn district attorney is going to be looking for serious penalties in the case anyway.

In a statement released on Monday, D.A. Ken Thompson said that the defendant’s “foolish and unlawful conduct is a breach of security and a danger to himself and others. It will not be tolerated. This is not a game and we will be seeking jail time.”

They’re certainly heaping on the charges. Souid was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and a violation of the city’s administrative code, one originally enacted to combat BASE jumping. It’s enough to land the guy in jail for more than a year. As the D.A. told the Daily Mail, “in this age of terrorism, it’s very important that we protect the security of the bridge at all times and under all circumstances.”

It’s about deterrence, in other words. And nothing strikes fear into the hearts of the evildoers like the full, terrible weight of the New York City administrative code. And while the D.A. confirmed to the Voice, so, so extraneously, that “there is no indication of terrorism” in this case, they still plan to throw le livre at Souid.

It’s the D.A.’s second chance to make the charges stick, and really teach these completely-innocent-if-somewhat-moronic visitors a lesson. The last bridge climber, a Russian tourist named Yaroslav Kolchin, was also targeted aggressively by the D.A., but ultimately escaped with community service. In that case, Thompson’s office had been seeking at least 60 days in jail, but the judge granted the lesser punishment “over [the D.A.’s] objections,” a spokesperson for Thompson wrote in an email to the Voice.

When will these tourists learn? We are scared. We are very scared in New York City. And when we hear the words “bridge” and “security” and, especially, “foreigner,” we pretty much start tossing people in the clink.

Last month, Senator Chuck Schumer proposed a bill that would make trespassing on a bridge or other landmark a felony punishable by up to five years in jail. As Souid’s lawyer, James Medows, pointed out, that’s a harsher penalty than having an unregistered handgun, and more time than you might get for a grab bag of violent crimes.

Since July, when mysterious white flags appeared on the bridge — which already has 24-hour patrolling and a slew of cameras — city and state leaders have been calling for increased security.The flag stunt turned out to be the handiwork of two German artists who wanted to honor the bridge’s German-born engineer, John Roebling, and celebrate “the beauty of public space,” which is even more nefarious than it sounds.

Those two ultimately escaped justice by not revealing their identities until they were out of the reach of New York’s law enforcement agencies. (It wasn’t for lack of trying. Among other things, Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance subpoenaed Twitter in an effort to determine the identity of the owners of a clearly satirical account that had jokingly taken credit for the stunt.) Where’s a drone when you need one?

Despite vows to monitor the span more closely, police failed to notice Souid climbing the bridge, in broad daylight, camouflaged in a bright blue windbreaker, and responded only after a 911 call. “If you’re going to point a finger at my client,” Medows tells the Voice, “people should point fingers at the NYPD too. They’re trying to make this guy into a poster child…I hope the D.A. will treat my client as an individual.”

After a court appearance yesterday, the Post quoted Souid telling reporters, in French, that “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” All he wanted to do, he said, was “take a photo as a memory.”

Well, he’s not going to need those photos now. Think he’ll ever forget this trip to the Big Apple?